This is the second
part of a two part story - for part one, click here...
of the greatest challenges for Somebody Cares came after hurricanes
Katrina and Rita devastated the US city of New Orleans and
other communities along the Gulf Coast in August and September,
“We are created for moments like this - we are
the one’s who bring hope in the midst of tragedies,”
says Doug Stringer.
chapter 21, talks about wars and rumours of wars,
earthquakes, famines, cyclones, hurricanes and tsunamis
but verse 13 says that but in the midst of this, this
will turn out as an occasion or opportunity, for your
New Orleans we had churches were were already related to -
they were giving us quick assessments and the same thing happened
when Rita hit south-east Texas - we already had a relationship...so
immediately, even before the Red Cross or the government agencies
were able to get their assessments, we were able to get the
on-ground assessments from church leaders,” recalls
Doug Stringer, the founder of Somebody Cares.
“Church leaders know their community far better than
a federal group or a state group coming in, they know their
At the same time, says Stringer, people started contacting
Somebody Cares from across the US and beyond asking what they
could do to help. The group were able to match these offers
with the needs being reported from the disaster site.
“So in real time, (we were) getting assessments...and
getting people out to locations as the needs were rising.”
he says. “The first few days after Katrina when 250,000
people came from New Orleans to Houston, Texas, as evacuees,
over 21,000 showed up at my office alone. In fact, the Red
Cross and FEMA (the US Federal Emergency Management Agency)
and other people were actually referring people to us because
they were still trying to get their systems in place.”
Stringer says the churches of Houston responded, joining in
Somebody Cares’ relief efforts as they opened their
doors to those who needed shelter and relief.
“We had Somebody Cares church sites all over Houston
(providing everything) from cots to shelters to food to providing
gift cards to Walmarts and Kmarts for basic humanitarian needs
like groceries and immediate emergency needs for families,
diapers or nappies and formula for the children.”
Stringer says that while at the time he only had three paid
staff - “I thought Lord, how are we going to do this?”
- many other people simply showed up to help. There was also
support from the Houston Christian radio station - KSBJ Radio
- who co-ordinated the collection of giftcards for gas, groceries
or general needs via local YMCAs.
“That spread all across America to where, within the
first eight weeks, we were able to provide $US1.5 million
in gift cards to evacuees, all by donation...” he recalls.
Doug Stringer’s relationship with Australia
goes back to 1983. He was driving along the road into
Houston one day when he saw a man walking along the
side of the road with a sign that said “Australian”.
Stringer, who had just broken up
with Australian woman he had been living with, didn’t
want to have anything to do with Australians just
then so he drove on.
But about 100 metres further down
the road, God convicted him and he stopped and backed
“The Holy Spirit convicted me so I had to back
up,” Stringer recalls. “I remember the
first thing he said to me was ‘G’day mate’
and I remember thinking ‘Yeah, g’day to
you too’ but he needed a place to stay for one
night so I took him to my exercise studio that at
that time had become Turning Point and was an outreach
centre where we had Bible studies almost every night...”
The man he picked up turned out
to be Andrew Merry, an Australian from Victoria who
had been backpacking around the world. While he had
intended only in spending a short time in Houston,
the theft of his passport and his bag meant the stay
turned into a six week sojourn.
“He began to see, in his words, ‘Christianity
in action’ - he saw the genuineness of all these
young Christians that really had a passion for God;
that enjoyed life, enjoyed worship; enjoyed being
excited for God but were out doing tangible things
- reaching the homeless, reaching drug addicts and
helping people. He was so touched by that, he gave
his life to the Lord within a few days.”
Merry, who is now the senior pastor
at the Ocean Grove Baptist Church near Geelong, Victoria,
recalls his time in Houston.
"God had it all organised,” he says. “I
was a phys ed teacher travelling around seeking meaning
in life and I was put next to a gym/aerobics instructor
whom God was using to shine His light in a dark world,”
“My life was radically changed by my commitment
to Jesus and I have always thanked God for Doug, his
obedience and his willingness to be used by Him."
Stringer first visited Australia
in 1986 and has since been back countless times. On
his latest visit, in May, he spoke to churches and
ministers in the Geelong region about “God’s
“We can look around the world and we have Middle
Eastern conflicts, we have Indonesian conflicts, we
have human and natural disasters going on - we can
watch the daily news and our hearts can be quite overwhelmed
and perplexed,” he says.
“And our man-made ways, our man made efforts,
our political efforts are not working. So what do
we need? We need an intervention of God Himself...One
nod from Heaven can turn everything around in a moment.”
we were able to procure - through our partnerships - over
$US30 million of goods: from generators to groceries to clothing
and all the basic necessities - and we were able to distribute
that all of our sites throughout the Gulf of Mexico - through
Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.”
It’s that willingness to help anyone in Christ’s
name which Stringer says consistently results in people who
would normally resist the Gospel being open to hearing it.
He recalls, for example, attending a recent event in California
at which former Indonesian President Sukarnoputri Megawati
who was being honored for helping Somebody Cares Indonesia,
its partner Children's Hunger Fund and other agencies get
resources into Banda Aceh in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami
Stringer was having breakfast the next morning with Paul Tan
- president of the Indonesian Relief Fund - when they received
a phone call from President Megawati asking them to lunch.
“(We) had about two hours sitting on a couch in a hotel
just having the most wonderful time of conversation. She began
to share with us the great needs for education and poverty,
for children and also for the issues of AIDS and autism in
Indonesia,” he says.
Stringer says such a conversation would never have taken place
if the church from all over the world had not reached out
to help those Indonesians who had been affected by Boxing
“That opens the hearts of people...”
He says that while there are times when it has been suppressed
beneath other imperatives, helping to relieve others’
suffering has always been a part of the core value of the
“We are created for moments like this - we are the one’s
who bring hope in the midst of tragedies,” he says.
“Luke, chapter 21, talks about wars and rumours of wars,
earthquakes, famines, cyclones, hurricanes and tsunamis but
verse 13 says that but in the midst of this, this will turn
out as an occasion or opportunity, for your testimony.
“We know that God doesn’t bring these on - God
wants to bring life, not death - but when these things happen,
we the church have a great opportunity to bring hope in the
midst of despair, victory out of disasters and triumphs over
tragedies. It’s an opportunity for us to be...the tangible
expressions of Christ.”
Among his other roles, Stringer also sits on the board of
George Otis Jr’s Sentinel Group, the organisation responsible
for the Transformations videos that show how revival is actively
transforming communities around the world.
He notes that while in 1999, only eight communities around
the world, including Cali, Colombia, were experiencing revival,
that figure has since risen to over 1000 communities and even
whole nations experiencing some level of “transforming
“Up until last year most of them were in places like
Latin America, Brazil, Uganda, places like that,” says
Stringer. “But we’re beginning to see - and it’s
really exciting - a kind of bubbling over where things are
beginning to stir even in the Western world.”
In an attempt to explain why the West often doesn’t
seem to experience the sorts of revivals seen in the developing
world, Stringer says that one key factor in all the places
that are experiencing revival is that of desperation.
“Revival comes by desperation and desperation by one
of two ways - either passion or persecution,” he says.
“Oftentimes in our Western mindset we tend to lean on
our own securities rather than a desperate need for God. We
sing songs like ‘I’m desperate for you’
but the reality is we’re not desperate.”
Stringer says people in the West have an “institutional
mentality” and tend to put God in a box.
“Whereas if you invite God’s presence, we’re
really saying ‘God, you have the right to be God - do
whatever you need to do - change my thinking and rearrange
the furniture of my heart and You do what You want to do’,”
he says. “That’s very uncomfortable for most of
us who know how to plan our day and have everything set.”
Somebody Cares America
Turning Point Ministries International